How to Help a Grieving Friend
When a friend is grieving, it can be difficult to know the right things to say or do. Sometimes you may not want to talk about it at all with them to avoid saying the wrong thing. Even small acts in empathy, comfort and support go a long way in helping someone who is grieving.
To start, learn more about the grieving process and the emotions your friend may be feeling. They could be angry, depressed, anxious, numb or guilty. Emotions around bereavement can be complicated and intense – and everyone’s are different. Nobody has the same grieving process.
Understand that your friend’s grief journey for her loved one is different than yours. There is no set timeline for grief. Your friend will grieve for as long as they need.
In the first days and weeks after your friend’s loss, reach out and let them know that you are sorry for their loss and that you’re there for them if they ever want to talk about their loss. It’s completely normal if your friend isn’t ready. Don’t take their emotions personally.
Be a Good Listener
If they do want to open up, focus on listening. Let your friend talk about their loved one and how they’re feeling without judgement. Let them know that it’s okay to cry. You may not know what to say. What’s most important is listening, letting them know you care and allowing your friend to feel their emotions.
When giving support to your grieving friend, recognize that you cannot fix what they are feeling or take away their pain. Don’t show them the “bright side” or tell them their loved one is in a “better place.” If they have been grieving for a long time, don’t encourage them to move on with their life. Statements like these are harmful to the grieving process.
Offer Concrete Help
You can also help a grieving friend by offering concrete help. Think about what could be useful. It could include taking their car for a wash, cooking meals, picking up groceries or looking after pets or children. Let others know how they can be helpful too. Organize a meal train with a group or offer other suggestions if other friends aren’t sure what to do.
Continue to be there for your friend even after the cards and flowers have stopped arriving, especially on special days. Let your friend know that you’re thinking of them and support them. Even if your friend doesn’t seem like they are still grieving on the outside, they could still be experiencing pain and sadness. Your love and care will be more important than ever.
Photo by Kasia Wanner